What I’m Reading, August 2015

Books books books. This month I passed 2014’s total of 121 books and am still going. 150 by the end of the year? Maybe?

Minus all the Baby-Sitters Club books, here’s what I’ve been reading in August.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson: This book was beautiful. The story centers around an unmarried 30-something woman in the 1960s, and her dreams explore what could have happened in her life. Then the dreams start affecting her real life. My only complaint is that it just… well, ended. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of ambiguous endings, which may be why I was disappointed in the ending. Ambiguous ending or not, this book grabbed my attention from beginning to end. (4/5)

In Between by Jenny B. Jones: This was a free download on Amazon awhile back, so I went ahead and grabbed it. The book sat on my Kindle app for who knows how long until I finally started it one night… and finished it before going to sleep. The main character has a strong voice that kept me turning the page and the rest of the cast was well-developed (even if Frances was a little annoying sometimes, and I say that as the kid who was in every club and super academic). While this book could be categorized as Christian fiction, the Christian aspect of it wasn’t overbearing or preachy. Heck, the main character isn’t that into Jesus. Overall the author did a good job at showing that everyone has problems regardless of their faith (or lack thereof) while putting together a strong story. (4/5)

Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change by Timothy D. Wilson: I listened to this book while working and doing various other things. First, I get what the author was conveying–that we can redirect the stories we tell about ourselves–and he did a decent job of that. He just kept making this point over and over again. The beginning and end were strong, but the middle was the rest of the book, rehashed. (3/5)

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson: This book was about the unintended consequences of technologies that seem small to us now but were world-changing when they were invented and later popularized. As much as I curse time zones now, for instance, learning the history behind it made me appreciate them a lot more. The other technologies, such as artificial light and refrigeration, were similar in their unintended consequences, all of which were fascinating to learn about. (4/5)

Tilly Lake’s Road Trip by Francis Potts: First off, I know the author. In fact, a couple of the small details in the plot came from me, like the bit about having a website to watch beautiful women eat. About the book, though. Yes. Tilly Lake’s husband is found dead on April first, so she takes the money, buys a Firebird, and hires a guy to drive her around England. It’s a fun story, one that teaches Tilly about herself and her identity as much as it makes the reader think. While this book isn’t perfect, it’s light-hearted and delightfully weird. (4/5)

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: I loved To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. Despite all the controversy surrounding this book and Harper Lee’s estate, I looked forward to the book as a curiosity but by no means expected it to be the masterpiece that Mockingbird was. This book was no Mockingbird, but it stood out in its own right. I wish there were more story to go along with the many flashbacks, but since Harper Lee is nearly 90 years old and this manuscript was just found, this is as good as we’re gonna get. One more thing: This book says Jean Louise (Scout) went to a women’s college in Georgia. She was a Scottie, right? 😀 (4/5)

Shit My Dad Says by Justin Halpern: I listened to this book. It’s a good thing I listened over a weekend because laughing every other minute at work while working on serious stuff would not have ended well. This book will make you laugh on one page and cringe on the next, but it’s definitely more laugh-inducing thanks to Justin Halpern’s writing style and (in my case) the audiobook voice effects. (4/5)

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel: While I have some anxiety beyond normal levels myself, it’s not formally diagnosed and is (usually) not debilitating. (It’s also really weird compared to most folks I know with anxiety. Example: Strangers? Fine. People I already know well? Oh gods, what if I say something and they hate me forever. But that’s a separate post.) This book does a good job of balancing the history and science of anxiety with the author’s personal history with the disorder, so no matter which aspect you’re interested in, you’ll get something out of this book. (4/5)

On Basilisk Station by David Weber: The prose was solid and the main character kicked butt, but I just couldn’t get into this book. I found myself skimming the talking and thoughts a lot and therefore found myself missing important information that would come back later. Maybe I’m not a military scifi person. (3/5)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: Everyone I know who has read this book happened to like it, and their judgment was solid here. The storytelling style of going back and forth between time periods Before and After works well here, and it gave me insight into more of the characters, who all grabbed my attention. While this book is a little slow to get going, it’s well-written and grabbed my attention quickly. (4/5)

Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug: If you do anything with web design at all, you need to read this book. I’m still spotting things I see in this book on websites everywhere (or even spotting sites that actively did not abide by these principles). A lot of the book is common sense for those knowledgeable on usability and will have you saying “I knew that”, but the book offers straightforward ways to make your site more usable. I’ll be referring back to this book. (5/5)

Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process by Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker: I have a lot of downtime at work and spent a lot of last week reading industry books as a result. This book takes the reader through all the ins and outs of project management, from discussion to launch, while maintaining a friendly voice and not dumbing anything down. While I enjoyed it, I’m pretty sure I never want to be a project manager. (4/5)

Wonder by R.J. Palacio: I remember my middle school years being tough, and I didn’t have the problems August Pullman had in this book. August, the main character, is in fifth grade, has craniofacial anomalies, and is going to school for the first time. I found myself rooting for almost all the characters in this book, hoping everything would be okay in the end. The characters had distinct voices displayed in the chapters they narrate, and overall, this was a good and mostly lighthearted read. (4/5)

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz: I’ve read (well, listened to) quite a few books on business and management over the past few months, but this is the first one targeted toward executives. As a venture capitalist and former CEO himself, Ben Horowitz offers processes and advice to the hard questions, like when should you fire someone, how to do it, and what to do when smart people are bad employees. While I won’t be applying most of this book to my life immediately (or possibly ever), it was a good peek into the mind of an executive. (4/5)

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: Laia lives with her grandparents and brother, barely surviving. Elias is a soldier about to graduate and is planning on deserting the Empire. When Laia is sent to spy on the commandant and Elias is forced not to desert, they meet and discover they’re not what they seem on the outside. This book is wonderful, and after the first few chapters, I was hooked. The prose, the connections between the characters, and the worldbuilding are excellent. 4.5 stars, rounded up. (5/5)

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle: The premise of this book was that we expect more than technology than from each other. While this isn’t a bad premise, this book presents only one side of the story. It doesn’t share the positive consequences of technology and socializing with tech, nor does it doesn’t share the stories of communities that wouldn’t be together if not for tech. This book is determined to say tech is terrible and tearing us apart, and that’s not entirely true. (3/5)

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